As a Christian mother, I’ll admit that I’m a bit baffled by the ritualistic ceremony called “The Purity Ball.” Why are young girls having a ritual to get their fathers involved with celebrating their virginity and proclaiming himself her “boyfriend” of sorts until she marries? I don’t like it, OK? It’s just….weird. And unnecessary.
From the book Purity by David Magnusson:
“A Purity Ball is a formal event where girls or young women and their fathers participate in a ceremony. The daughters dress up in ball gowns and the evening usually consists of dinner, a keynote speech, ballroom dancing, and a vow by fathers and daughters. The girls make a pledge to ‘remain pure and live pure lives before God,’ to stay sexually abstinent until marriage. Their fathers sign a commitment undertaking to protect their daughter’s purity.
The father or mentor pledges “…to shield and protect his daughter; to live a pure life himself as a man, husband and father; and to be a man of integrity and responsibility, acting as a role model for his family.” (via iacknowledge)
The dad actually signs a contract like the one pictured below, with his daughter as the witness.
This isn’t just about sex. These girls are vowing to not hold hands, kiss, or even date any man other than their father until their wedding day. Come on. How realistic is this? Wouldn’t it be easier to just have them undergo female circumcision? Isn’t that the next step?
This is about one thing and one thing only: men controlling women and guaranteeing (they think) their oppression and their submission.
I think it’s creepy — yes, creepy — for a father to be so obsessed with his daughter’s virginity that he would write a book about it.. My daughter would be appalled. And I’d have been appalled had I been subjected to it. These are just not topics I ever would have wanted to discuss with my dad.
Why isn’t there a ceremony like this for boys to entrust their virginity to their mothers? Now THAT creeps everyone out, doesn’t it? Anyone care to wager a guess as to why this little ceremony is non-existent?
Patheos writer Libby Anne states it wonderfully.
Why not teach girls other ways to be validated? Why not teach girls to value their skills and abilities and dreams, rather than to equate their worth with their bodies or beauty? Why not teach girls that they are internally valuable, and that what males around them think of them is completely irrelevant to that?
Instead, the father / daughter purity culture feeds the idea that girls are only valuable inasmuch as they are valued in the eyes of the men around them, be that their boyfriends or their fathers. It teaches girls that their value lies in their bodies and in their relationship to men. It tells girls that it is healthy to pin your source of validation to male affirmation, but that that affirmation should come from their fathers rather than from boyfriends.
While I was writing this article, my daughter was at her Monday night Bible study group with her friends. I called and asked her to put me on speaker phone. I asked them what they thought of the purity ball concept. Their reaction is the same as mine — it’s weird, unrealistic, and creepy. My daughter had a good point. She instantly rejected the idea because it would leave out a lot of the young girls who have already been deemed “impure” in the eyes of sexist men. This isn’t relevant, but my daughter is an 18-year-old virgin — by choice. She is in control of her sexuality. Not some random guy, not me, and certainly not her dad.
After I ended the call my 13-year-old son came into my office and offered his opinion:
“Everyone should have the right to do what they want with their bodies without everyone making them feel guilty and like they’re dirty or something. I’m not saying everyone should be out having sex all the time, but it’s not the business of everyone else, either. Misogynistic.”
So there you have it, folks.
The photos are below. I’ve analyzed these and I’ve decided that the main thing that makes them hella creepy is that no one is smiling. It’s like it’s against the rules or something. The intimate poses don’t help make it less weird, either.
I can’t remember the last time my dad ever touched the bare skin on my back that way. Oh wait. Never.
Come on! Really? A chaste kiss between father and daughter is one thing. This weird photo is another.
OK what is this weird pose???
I don’t know what the green hair thing is for and I care so little that I’m not even going to research it. Something ritualistic, I imagine.
This dance around the cross, with white things draped from it, just seems so cultish and ritualistic to me.
The double wedding. This purity ball photo accompanies an interesting article by Madame Noire that discusses the positive (and negative) side of these rituals.
Just generally creepy.
Tiffany Willis is the founder and editor-in-chief of Liberal America. An unapologetic member of the Christian Left, she has spent most of her career actively working with “the least of these” and disadvantaged and oppressed populations. She’s passionate about their struggles.